Friday, 21 February 2020

THE LONELY REALMSPHERE GUIDE: Greywater Fastness


Figuring I'd take a break from writing about Teclis and get some actual Cities of Sigmar content up, presenting the first instalment of the Cities of Sigmar edition of The Lonely Realmsphere Guide, a resurrected tactics feature I'd started on TGA in the pre battletome days of Season of War: Firestorm, on getting the most use out of each Free City's allegiance abilities, kicking off with my preferred environmental disaster, Greywater Fastness.


Why collect a Greywater Fastness army? You could have seen the duardin on the start collecting box and thought I'm having a bit of that, be a true artillery aesthete (to the continued exasperation of your gaming group), already have a lot of models painted up in Averland colours dating back to before Averland's status as protoplasmic goo, straight up hate Wood Elves, or in my case be afflicted by a combination of the above. Patrician taste in Free Cities assured, how are you supposed to get the best mileage out of a set of allegiance abilities, that let's face it, ain't exactly Hallowheart?

When thematic 'chapter trait' options are given to an army, it's sort of the rule one set shines head and shoulders above the rest, and Cities of Sigmar are a comparatively fortunate exception, in that their stronghold choices are pretty evenly divided into a two tier system. Perhaps less fortunate for Greywater Fastness, Anvilgard and the Phoenicium, all squarely stuck at the bottom, but hey, at least we don't have a Petrifex Elite. Despite Greywater Fastness not getting doubled in value wizards or a fight twice command ability, I'm not the type to say my army's from Hallowheart but wearing loaned Greywater uniforms, and see squeezing as much mileage as I can out of the hand of relatively grounded traits, artefacts and spells they do get as a fun challenge.

Empire Great Cannons. Don't exist anymore, but you get my point

DISCLAIMER: S.A.D. ARMIES:

A term popularised by players of the original Warhammer in the early 2000s, S.A.D. or Shooty Army of Doom, doesn't need a lot of explanation, with an acronym perfectly eunicating its intent, being that while 'gunline' armies cramming in as many artillery pieces and long range missile units, might seem an appealing prospect to collect and play with, by contrast provide a pretty bleak experience for anyone unfortunate enough to play against them, and are commonly regarded as all kinds of boring to play against, but also requiring very little skill. Because let's face it, games where your shiniest, best models are get shot off the board before you've had a chance to do anything with them ain't fun

Not only burdening regular opponents to the point of not wanting to play/talk to you anymore, S.A.D. armies are also deliberately curbed against by many tournament organisers, with the practice of ensuring that at least one game played over the course of an event will use a range reducing Realmscape Feature from the Realm of Shadow, resulting that in addition a guaranteed sports score of zero, a S.A.D. army taken to an event will be certain to loose at least one game. While I'll be covering all of Greywater Fastness' abilities and options available in full, obviously a lot of them lend themselves to improving the S.A.D. capacity of a lot of already S.A.D. inclined units, and reading this article you may find that I've given disproportionate attention to achieving victory through other means, potentially saving both you social life and tournament career in the process.

Pony conferring no additional in-game bonuses.
Probably rolls more 1s to run than he would on foot

BATTLE TRAITS

We're off to a great start with Rune Lore, and the Rune of Unfaltering Aim, giving the Runelord, already an indispensable utility character in Dispossessed heavy lists (able to buff units offensively and defensively, ward off hostile spells and dispel your own souped up endless spells free of charge to free them up to be recast), an extra function free of charge in giving a nearby unit Ironweld war machines +1 to hit in addition to the prayer he'd normally be able to cast. Fantastic when cast on a unit of three Gyrocopters with steam guns early game, and then used to support a Steam Tank moving alongside a block of Hammerers, or an artillery piece camped out with Irondrakes, Rune Lore effectively being free means that if you're weighing up whether to build your Greywater Fastness army around a core of Freeguild, Disposessed, or one of the various aelf factions, the duardin lead by a hair's breadth.

Salvo Fire is a solid, if uninspiring command ability, further boosting a unit of Irondrakes or Freeguild Handgunners' status as CoS preeminent shooters with +1 to hit, and comboing nicely with the generic Volley Fire. However, if you're inclined to max out on those units (both typically hitting on a 3+), you're probably going to be looking at running them alongside a Celestial Hurricanum, which will already max out their to hit rolls, and facing up to the fact that the Tempest's Eye command trait Hawk-eyed gives +1 to wound bonus for largely the same effect, doesn't cost a command point and stacks with the Hurricanum. Hawk-eyed alone means Tempest's Eye probably has the ability to make better conventional gunlines than GWF, and so we've really got to get what we can out of the few advantages we do have, bringing us nicely to...

Home of the Great Ironweld Guns, adding 3" to the range of Ironweld war machines, is easy to disregard when the first place your mind goes is Helstorms Rocket Batteries and Helblasters, but affords a nice boost to a Steam Tank's steam gun, and even repeater handgun, and significantly ups the game of steam gun armed Gyrocopters (conceivably the only way to build the Gyrocopter/Gyrobomber kit), allowing them more flexible placement when incinerating the largest hordes.


COMMAND TRAITS

Consistent with the previous battle traits, none of Greywater's command traits offer anything in the way of game breaking combos, but all three are solid, offering neat bonuses when tailored to the right force. Seat on the Council is my personal favourite, and when combined with an adjutant can turn a general into a veritable command point farm almost up there with Hammerhal - command points, you can never have too many.

Drillmaster's reroll 1s to hit aura works best on a Cogsmith supporting multiple Helblaster Volley Guns (typically in an Artillery Company battalion), as each Helblaster is an individual unit. A large block of Irondrakes or Handgunners may be better off with a Seat on the Council general and accompanying adjutant firing off Volley Fire to reroll 1s when needed. Though that said, a well applied Knight-Azyros circumvents the need for either.

Ghoul Mere Ranger's a funny one, and a command trait I wish I had the painted models to necessitate using, if only for the cool narrative image the name inspires. Allowing units near the general to run and still shoot, it's a little pokey due to most CoS shooters being granted conditional bonuses on standing still, meaning they're only going to want to move through a Soulscream Bridge most of the time. I can imagine it would prove handy in helping a Steam Tank heavy force capture objectives and still shoot early game.


ARTEFACTS OF POWER (or Ranald's whiskers, why don't we have pigeon bombs?!)

Of Greywater Fastness' trio of artefacts, there's a standout winner in the Steam-piston Platemail, transforming a Steam Tank Commander, a less thematically inclined (but arguably much more useful) Freeguild General on Griffon or Dreadlord on Black Dragon, or even Stardrake into a literal tank with a 2+ save and enough wounds to capitalise on.

Runic Munitions would be wonderful if any of Cities of Sigmar's component subfactions still had access to a hero with the ability to volley off a large volume of damage 1 shooting attacks like the former Wanderer Waywatcher hero, but as it stands is still an appreciable option in the hands of a Knight-Venator.

The incontestable best named artefact in the game, Mastro Vivetti's Magnificent Macroscope is probably what I'd go for to pick up an extra command points if I lacked a behemoth hero or Knight-Venator to slap either of the aforementioned artefacts on, and didn't fancy any of the Ghyran options. Like the Runic Munitions the Macroscope would be great if we had more dedicated ranged heroes. Mastro Vivetti's Magnificent Macroscope!

Greywater Fastness armies are restricted to Realm artefacts from Ghyran because er, that's where they're from. Nothing immediately jumps out, but in games I'm without a behemoth hero I like to run Ghyrstrike on a Warden King general who's bodyguard can protect him enough to let him get stuck in, the Hypersnare Seeds can throw a serious fly in the ointment of enemies infringing on your ranged units if you get lucky, and the Jadewound Thorn compliments a Freeguild General on Griffon with a Sigmarite Runesword and his command ability active nicely for five chances to do a mortal wound on a 5+.


THE LORE OF SMOG

I love the imagery the name of this spell lore evokes. Descending Ash Cloud is the standout here, offering a -1 to hit modifier that's cumulative with the Sorceress' Word of Pain and Hysh Battlemage's Pha's Protection, giving you multiple opportunities to force negative hit rolls on your opponent's biggest, baddest unit or monster, often stacking.

Eroding Blast and Choking Fumes are fairly similar in function horde killers; personally I'd veer towards Choking Fumes, as Eroding Blast's scenery requirement feels situational. Both may work best on a behemoth mounted wizard, more likely to be on the front lines, and covering a larger range footprint.


THE GREYWATER ARTILLERY COMPANY BATTALION

If you're going to hand out only a single battalion to each city, it only stands that Greywater Fastness' should have an Ironweld focus, but why S.A.D., why did it have to be S.A.D.?! We could have had a brigade of Steam Tanks, or even a formation of Gyrocopters acting as spotters for artillery, having to get up close and personal in order to give shooting bonuses, at least making it dynamic S.A.D., but nope, straight up garden variety cluster of artillery deleting anything hapless enough to deploy opposite it S.A.D..

Personal hangups aside, the Greywater Artillery Company is about the only time Ironweld artillery is going to outperform the equivalent points spent on Freeguild Handgunners, and so if you're going to use what's already quite a pricey battalion, it would be prudent to go all in on it, fielding the maximum four artillery pieces available and building the rest of your list around it. With the battalion's Gunmaster as your general with Drillmaster, Helblaster Volley Guns become the infinetly preferable option for your four artillery pieces; you'll want to include a Lord-Ordinator or Celestial Hurricanum for a bonus to hit, and consider a Soulscream Bridge (cast by a Sorceress sacrificing minions to guarantee it happens on turn 1), with plenty of minions to screen your artillery on the other side, to be hitting on a rerollable 2+ on your double shooting first turn.

If Greywater Fastness had a better range of artefacts and/or heroes to use them on at its disposal, then a 'minimal' artillery battery with only two Helblasters, coming in at 420 points might be a viable way to stock up, but as it stands doesn't quite past muster.


UNIT SELECTION

As you can see in the preceding parts of this article, Greywater Fastness has a narrower spread of units to grant benefits to than the 'one size fits all' allegiance abilities of say, Hammerhal, or Tempest's Eye, and I've collated a few options and combos that I think stand out:


Gyrocopters with steam guns

Clarified in the CoS battletome's errata, Steam guns are the main beneficiaries of Home of the Great Ironweld Guns' extra 3" range, and work great both a cheap solos, and in discount squadrons of 3. Though obviously running on a situational curve, the steam gun is still frighteningly potent when used against large units of multi wound models, and a unit of three Gyrocopters with +1 to hit from an early game Rune of Unfaltering Aim, or Hurricanum aura will on average take out a third of a unit of Brutes, and almost half a unit of Chaos Warriors, allowing you to capitalise on battleshock. Always remember to fire your steam guns at a target before any other missile troops to capitalise on casualties mind!

I have yet to figure out how Gyrocopters with brimstone guns or Gyrobombers are worth their points by comparison.


Runelord

The Rune of Unfaltering Aim on its own obviously isn't enough of a reason to take a Runelord, and so it comes a huge relief that the guy's a 90 point Swiss Army knife, and probably my favourite warscroll of all time. The reliably cast defensive Ancestral Shield and rend boosting Forgefire can not only be used in the same turn as the Rune of Unfaltering Aim, but also stack, meaning that if you're running a Dispossessed heavy list you can add as many 6+ special saves or points of rend to a large unit of Hammerers or Irondrakes as you have Runelords.

The best unbinding bonus this side of named characters who are also gods means he'll be able to throw a spanner in your opponent's best laid magical plans; and being able to dispel endless spells for 'free', without having to give up casting anything in the same way a wizard would, with a +2 to modifier lends to great defensive and offensive applications. Defensively shutting down threatening endless spells speaks for itself, but the ability to dispel spells offensively might require some explaining. Dispelling an endless spell you've cast in a previous turn frees the spell up for you to cast and activate it again, giving you a second activation of the spell for twice the mortal wounds or Emerald Lifeswarm heals. Dispelling happens at the start of the hero phase, so obviously remember to do it before you do anything else!

A Runelord's also unlikely to stray too far from the side of a Warden King if you're running one, making him a great adjutant candidate. If you'd like a more detailed look at the Runelord and his Dispossessed compatriots, then hit up my Lonely Realmsphere article delving into them in detail.


Knight-Venator and Knight-Azyros

Unlike the other six cities with allegiance abilities, Greywater Fastness doesn't have a named Stormhost in residence, whether there's one planned, or the Changeling didn't leave room for a Stormkeep when he was mapping the city we have yet to find out. Regardless, Greywater Fastness armies can still field Stormcast, so I assume they do at lest visit, and the duo of winged heroes both fill solid niches in a Greywater force, working in conjunction or alone.

The Knight-Azyros is a zippy objective grabber, with a lantern possessing a short range aura that negates the need to for a Drillmaster general, and a one time mortal wound bomb to make opponents wary of committing too many units to him. The similarly speedy Knight-Venator's bow is the best spot available for Runic Munitions, doubling its normal damage output, and giving a small boost to the Star-Fated arrow.

With the Knight-Venator's 2+ hitting shots directly benefiting from the Azyros' lantern, it makes sense to run them as pair, and they have the makings of a solid general/adjutant duo, with the Azyros, who's inclined to be that little bit closer to the enemy in order to be in lantern range as general, protected by an Honoured Retinue of Dark Riders or similar speedy cavalry. Seat on the Council would be the command trait to go for here for maximum command point farming, though I'm not sure what kind of chair he'd be able to park on with those wings.


Other Useful Units

The Celestial Hurricanum and its +1 to hit aura are the Cities of Sigmar equivalent of HP Sauce, going well with just about everything. If you're considering a Lord-Ordinator for your artillery, stump out 50 points more than he and the wizard you would have taken anyway cost for a +1 to hit bubble that doesn't just extend to your gunline, and a bunch of mortal wounds to throw out. A mobile Hurricanum could also be used to support steam gun Gyrocopters especially with the increased range GWF offers them, and it's something I fully intend to explore when I've finished converting and painting my Hurricanum.

Steam Tanks are a trademark Ironweld Arsenal, and by extension Greywater unit, and a pretty weird warscroll, falling into the trap so many hybrid melee/missile units do of not being particularly great at either, and bizarrely probably being better off in Living City lists than under any other city. They get incrementally better the more of them you field, with at least one Commander, allowing them to take advantage of Target Sighted en mass. I'm not trying to make out that the Hurricanum fixes everything, but I can imagine a Steam Tank cosied up to one for a bonus to hit in melee and shooting ain't half bad.

A unit you'd be in less of a hurry to associate with Greywater Fastness would be Shadow Warriors, but without access to allied Tree-Revenants, if you're going to build your list around shooting it sure is nice to have some backfield objective grabbers, and hitting on 2s when set up in cover they're made to take advantage of Drillmaster otherwise.


MERCENARIES AND ALLIES

If you find it frustrating that Greywater Fastness is all about cannons, has visible cannons on its city walls in the only piece of art ever specifically created for it, and not somehow is only able to take cannons when they're mounted on the front of a Steam Tank, then fret no more, Greywater Fastness can in fact take actual cannon cannons (of the Olde Worlde Dwarf variety), courtesy of the Blacksmoke Battery mercenary company with rules in the pages of The General's Handbook 2019. The Blacksmoke Battery has a whole bunch of shared keywords and synergies with Cities of Sigmar, Greywater Fastness in particular, that I've already written an entire blog post about, which if you're interested you can find here.

While their respective movement enhancing and healing spells mean Gotrek is probably better suited to a Hammerhal, Living City or Hallowheart list, I've used him to great effect in several games alongside a Greywater Fastness army, and he's no slouch. Gotrek runs (and charges) on command points, and a Seat on the Council/adjutant combo suits him fine. Be sure to include an Emerald Lifeswarm, and a Runelord to dispel it, and if you're really worried about him shedding wounds consider the Ghyran artefact Wand of Restoration.

No small part thanks to their penchant for deforestation, Greywater Fastness lack access to the current allied backfield objective redeployer du jour in Sylvaneth Tree-Revenats, but that might be a blessing in disguise, freeing up the spot for the actually-quite-good new Grundstock Gunhauler warscroll, in 2,000 point games able to be fielded either as a pair, or carrying half a dozen Skywardens or Endrinriggers, able to deal damage from deal damage from the most distant objective. I can't wait to get mine painted up and try them out.


Well, there you have it. Probably competing with the Phoenicium for city with the least going for it on the table (contrary to popular opinion I will maintain to my dying day that Anvilgard are utter filth), but certainly the one with the most panache in their codpieces. I hope this article has at least entertained, and if it's persuaded even only one of you to buy three Gyrocopters and crack open the Averland Sunset, then it's done more than its job.

If you feel I've made any obvious omissions, or have any other feedback, please get in touch. Until next time!

2 comments:

  1. Your analysis of GWF and Gyrocopters is wrong.

    Yeah, the range on the weapon profile increases 11 inches, but when you read how it actually fires, there is no increase. The ability is always 8 inches, and never increases with the GWF trait.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Feraxil,

      The Gyropcopter's warscroll was updated in the Cities of Sigmar errata to say 'within range of the attacking model's steam gun' instead of 'within 8"'

      https://www.warhammer-community.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/e27ddc97.pdf

      Thank you for pointing this out though, I'll edit a link to the FAQ into the article. :)

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